My dad was born in Hungary and worked for the U.S. Army while in Germany at the end of World War II. He met my mom in Germany. They immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s. Less than a year later, I was born. They learned to read, write and speak English. Five years after that my parents became naturalized citizens. This country and patriotism meant everything to them, and they instilled that in me.
I don’t think I realized how much patriotism there was in me until I was a junior in high school. I got called to the office one snowy day in December 1969. I never got called to the office. A reporter from the Buffalo Evening News wanted to speak with me. It seems a copy of an essay I wrote for my English class was in his hands, and he wanted to publish that essay!
The assignment for the class was to write an essay and “take on the identity of an inanimate object.” I looked around the classroom and wondered what I could be. It was staring me in the face. My essay was about being an American flag. It was a heartfelt story about the flag’s beginning, honors and sorrows.
I was amazed at what that article brought my way. Letters and notes were received from the president, Neil Armstrong (who was mentioned in the essay), from veterans; I was a “citizen of the day” on a local radio station. But the most prestigious honor of all was the flag presented to me by the Veterans Administration. All this attention was just for being patriotic, and that was pretty heady stuff for a 16-year-old. But the look of pride in my parents’ eyes after that article appeared was immeasurable.
It has been 43 years since that article was published, and I’m still patriotic. After hearing all the “war stories” from my parents, I learned to appreciate all that I have in this country. At 18, I signed up to vote, and have never missed the opportunity to make my vote count. It may not always be a vote for the winning side, but at least I have a choice. I still stand with my hand over my heart, and sing the national anthem with pride while gazing up at our flag. So does my husband. We wear our patriotic colors and flag pins on all the national holidays. We know there are many like us in this great country and are proud to call ourselves Americans.
And yes, there is an American flag flying from our house. There is a solar light on it, so it’s lighted at night, and stays out most of the time. There’s also a very special flag displayed inside our home in the den. It’s the flag that was presented to my mother-in-law upon my father-in–law’s death, for service to his country in the Army during World War II.
And what about that flag the veterans gave me? Well, it hung for a while at the first house my husband and I purchased. But I realized the honor that was given to me by the veterans with that flag was too special to have the weather damage it, so that flag now rests in a keepsake box I have for everything near and dear to me.
All this was because two people left their homelands for a new country, and that country adopted them as two of its own. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had my parents not come the United States. I am very proud of my German-Hungarian heritage. But I am more proud to be a first-generation American.